Atlanta Falcons 50: Matt Ryan’s Top 10 Performances – #10


Today, we continue our Falcons 50 countdown with our mini-series written by staff writer Kevin Knight. Over the next ten days, Kevin will be counting down Matt Ryan’s top performances.

You can find the full list of “Falcons 50” posts here.

The Atlanta Falcons have an amazing quarterback in Matt Ryan.

After so many years of sub-par QB play and the debacle that was the 2007 season, the team struck gold in the young signal caller from Boston College. Since then, Atlanta has experienced years of consistent leadership and competent quarterbacking from Ryan.

Ryan is, without a doubt, the best QB in Atlanta Falcons history. His numbers speak for themselves, but his play goes beyond the numbers. He’s the unquestioned leader of this team and the face of the franchise. Ryan is a top-10 QB in the NFL today and, in my mind, is either elite or borderline elite already.

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His ability to stay cool and collected during the biggest moments of games, commonly the last drive of the fourth quarter, and engineer comeback after comeback has earned him the nickname “Matty Ice”.

Ryan has built an excellent rapport with star WR Julio Jones, and the two of them combine for one of the most potent passing offenses in the NFL.

As we count down the final fifty days until the beginning of the NFL season, let us fondly remember some of Matt Ryan’s greatest games with the Atlanta Falcons. Keep in mind that these are based on Matt Ryan’s performance, not the entire team’s performance.

#10 – Atlanta Falcons 27, Green Bay Packers 24 – 2008

Clocking in at #10 is Matt Ryan’s first trip to Lambeau Field, a game that was almost universally pegged as a loss by pundits and analysts across the country.

Falcons fans, myself included, were still weary from the 2007 season.

We were scared to buy into the hype that Matt Ryan could come in and lead this team to a winning season in his rookie year. A few good performances early on (namely, a strong opening week win against Detroit and an impressive 38-14 road victory over Kansas City in Week 3) were offset by two disappointing divisional road losses to Tampa Bay and Carolina.

Dec 8, 2013; Green Bay, WI, USA; Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) gets a pass away while under pressure from Green Bay Packers defensive end Mike Neal (96) and cornerback Micah Hyde (33) in the 4th quarter at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

Going into the Week 5 matchup against Aaron Rodgers and the Packers on the road, a team that was expected to make a deep run into the playoffs, most us of had little hope.

But there is always that tiny flicker that fans can see, the one that whispers to you “well, there’s always a chance”.

That flicker was kindled early on in the game when the Falcons took a 10-0 lead in the first quarter. Matt Ryan found Justin Peelle on a 1-yd TD pass, and Jason Elam followed that up with a 40-yd FG a few minutes later.

Green Bay would quickly embarrass the Falcons’ defense, with Aaron Rodgers finding Donald Driver on a 44-yd TD pass part of the way through the second quarter.

But Matt Ryan, our young, intrepid leader, would not be fazed. He orchestrated a lovely drive down the field, capping it off with a 22-yd TD to Roddy White to make the score 17-7 Falcons.

After the half, the Falcons defense would hold steady, limiting Green Bay to just one FG in the third quarter. The offense, however, would struggle.

At the beginning of the fourth quarter, Matt Ryan would throw an interception on third and long. Aaron Rodgers would quickly lead Green Bay down the field and score on a 25-yd TD pass to Greg Jennings in only four plays. The game was tied at 17-17.

While the Atlanta fans were sweating profusely, Matt Ryan stayed cool.

While the Atlanta fans were sweating profusely, Matt Ryan stayed cool. He led the team into field goal range and Jason Elam nailed a 41-yarder. 20-17. On Green Bay’s ensuing drive, Aaron Rodgers tossed an interception, giving Ryan and the Falcons’ offense the ball at the Green Bay 21.

Michael Turner would take over from there, running for a 2-yd TD to give the Falcons a 27-17  lead with only 3:35 remaining. While Aaron Rodgers would manage to lead Green Bay down the field for another TD to make the score 27-24, the Falcons would be able to safely run out the clock on their next possession.

This game is iconic for me, especially because it really cemented my faith in Matt Ryan. To come in to Lambeau Field, notorious for being one of the most difficult road environments, and lead your team to a road victory in only your fifth game as a pro is something special.

Not to mention, Ryan was going against one of the top QBs of our time in Aaron Rodgers, and defeated him.

Despite not having a tremendous stat line (16-24, 61.5%, 194 yds, 2 TD, 1 INT), Matt Ryan still put on a show. He made the plays that were needed, showed resilience when Green Bay tied the game, and proved that he was the leader this team needed. I’d call that an excellent performance.

What do you think about the game? Is it one of your favorites as well? Share some of your fond memories of Ryan’s rookie season in the comments below!

Stay tuned tomorrow for #9, a particularly memorable and enjoyable game for Falcons’ fans.

Next: Getting to know the coaching staff for 2015

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